This archival photograph was photographed in Lincoln City, Ore. At least 31 percent were married to a spouse age 21 or older. Laws in 27 states do not specify an age below which a child cannot marry. That sounds nothing like child marriage, which is often forced and which has close to a 70 percent chance of ending in divorce. But a child who leaves home is considered a runaway; the police try to return her to her family and could even charge our organization criminally if we were to get involved. She assumed that the clerk would refuse to approve the marriage. PostEverything Perspective Perspective Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events Why can year-olds still get married in the United States? Despite these alarming numbers, and despite the documented consequences of early marriages, including negative effects on health and education and an increased likelihood of domestic violence, some state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation to end child marriage — because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom or because they cling to the notion that marriage is the best solution for a teen pregnancy. Ending child marriage should be simple.
Further, children typically are not allowed to file legal actions in their own names. Many of the children married between and were wed to adults significantly older than they were, the data shows. Adults being pressured in this way have options, including access to domestic-violence shelters. Unchained At Last , a nonprofit I founded to help women resist or escape forced marriage in the United States, spent the past year collecting marriage license data from to , the most recent year for which most states were able to provide information. Wrong, as DeMello, now 42, learned. Based on the correlation we identified between state population and child marriage, we estimated that the total number of children wed in America between and was nearly , Child-protective services are usually not a solution, either: The actual number is probably higher, as some states did not provide spousal ages. She assumed that the clerk would refuse to approve the marriage. In this way, U. If the father wants to co-parent, he can establish paternity and provide insurance and other benefits to the baby without getting married. At least 31 percent were married to a spouse age 21 or older. A girl who marries young is 31 percentage points more likely to live in poverty when she is older, a striking figure that appears to be unrelated to preexisting differences in such girls. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls , released last year by the State Department, lists reducing child, early and forced marriage as a key goal. Besides, most religions tend to describe marriage as an important union between two willing partners. Vanessa Atterbeary, who introduced the bill to end child marriage in her state. We have seen it in families who have been in America for generations and immigrant families from all over the world. In Idaho, for example, someone 18 or older who has sex with a child under 16 can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 25 years. Other states have not acted at all. Caseworkers point out that preventing legal marriages is not in their mandate. Most domestic-violence shelters do not accept minors, and youth shelters typically notify parents that their children are there. Michelle DeMello and her husband, Eric DeMello, were married when she was just 16 and five months pregnant, and he was PostEverything Perspective Perspective Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events Why can year-olds still get married in the United States? Also, the data we collected did not account for children wed in religious-only ceremonies or taken overseas to be married, situations that we at Unchained often see. Layman was 27 when she escaped the marriage that had been arranged for her in her Orthodox Jewish community in New York when she was 17, to a man she had known for 45 minutes. We preach against child-marriage abroad.
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